Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Living With a Loved One Who Has Tourette’s Syndrome

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According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in every 360 children is diagnosed with Tourette syndrome. And it is a condition most of them carry into adulthood.

A common misconception about Tourette’s is that those who have it swear or blurt out inappropriate words uncontrollably and randomly, as that is how the media portrays the neurodevelopmental disorder. In reality, that is just one symptom of Tourette’s, which is called coprolalia. In fact, only five to ten percent of people with Tourette’s suffer from it.

Tourette’s is actually characterized by a variety of involuntary tics – motor, vocal, or both. Some of these actions include hopping, snapping, facial tics, and even dancing. It is described as an itch that can’t be scratched or an urge to do something that cannot be stopped.

Even so, living with people who have Tourette’s is typically not that difficult, especially if they do not suffer from other forms of mental disorders.

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The most important thing to do is to avoid “fixing” them and their tics, even if the desire to do so is borne of good intent. That responsibility falls on medical professionals; what people with Tourette’s need is support and acceptance from their loved ones. This way, the road to self-acceptance becomes smoother.

It also helps to offer physical reassurance, as it has scientifically been proven that stress, which would aggravate the condition, can be calmed by physical touch from a trustworthy companion.

Dr. Jonathan Lauter is a New York-based general and child and adolescent psychiatrist. He is a clinician at Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, NY, while also maintaining a private practice in Manhattan. To read more about the subject, visit this website.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Common Misconceptions About Young People’s Mental Health

Detecting early on what would constitute as a mental health problem among children and adolescents is key to ensuring that they are given clinical care and go on to live normal lives. One must see past their emotional problems and fully understand what’s going on. Here are some myths that must be debunked to truly help these young folks.

One is the dominant notion that certain erratic behaviors among kids are just manifestations of personal weakness. While it can be hard to separate a child’s character from symptoms of a disorder, it is critical to seek the help of doctors and not simply treat behaviors such as aggressiveness, impulsive behavior, or prevalent anxiety as aspects of personality. A psychiatric problem is an illness that must be immediately dealt with.

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Secondly, many parents think that if their child has a psychiatric disorder, the child is damaged for life. This is far from the truth; recognizing the problem and dealing with it early will allow for a great chance of both managing and overcoming the symptoms, allowing the child to lead a healthy adult life.

Parents should not blame themselves for their children’s disorder. Though relationships and the environment at home may contribute to it, they must not just indulge the guilt and instead focus on helping the child recover. Most cases of learning disorder, autism, and depression are biological in nature, not necessarily a result of bad parenting.

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Lastly, never treat a disorder as something the child can will themselves out of. Disorders like ADHD and anxiety are not just issues of mood, but a dysfunction that affects all aspects of the kid’s life. Seek professional help and, if needed, get them into therapy as soon as possible.

Jonathan Lauter, M.D., is an accomplished psychiatrist and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He is certified in both general and child/adolescent psychiatry. More on Dr. Lauter’s work and interests here.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Understanding Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

“Did I leave the stove on?” “Did I lock the door?” “Is the iron unplugged?”

These are some of the questions that people ask themselves during the day. Certain levels of anxiety regarding everyday problems are normal. Usually, checking once or twice can dispel these concerns, enabling people to go on with their day.

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However, if this becomes excessive and people cannot help but worry, it can interfere with their daily lives.

This is a sign of OCD, or obsessive compulsive disorder. It is an anxiety disorder that causes unwanted, intrusive thoughts (obsessions) or repetitive, ritualized behaviors (compulsions).

The obsessions are images or impulses that enter the head over and over again, and most of the time, the patient cannot block it out. These thoughts can go beyond just wondering if there are tasks that he forgot to accomplish or being anxious about misplaced or improper arrangement of objects. There are instances that these thoughts are frightening or upsetting images. Also these can be urges to do something that he does not want to do.

The compulsions are the recurring behaviors or rituals that are aimed toward making the obsessions go away or prevent it from happening. The patient will repeat these compulsions over and over until they believe that the threat has already been averted.

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OCD is a chronic issue and can be disruptive and perilous for those who are suffering from it, and, sometimes, even those around them. There are many treatment forms for it; with cognitive/behavioral therapy being one of the most effective.

Jonathan Lauter, M.D. is a psychiatrist and fellow of the American Psychiatric Association who specializes in the treatment of neurobehavioral disorders in children, teens, and adults. Visit this link to read more about mental health.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Touchscreen Childcare: Parenting Vs. Technology

Global culture on the use of tablets and smartphones around children and toddlers is conflicted at best. On the one hand, tech-embracing parents forward that these gadgets are sources of educational material for their children. On the other hand, resistant parents dread the addictive qualities of small screens, which have generally exhibited an instant ability to appease a child in tantrums.

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Above all these pros and cons, further research is revealing other hazards of allowing children and toddlers excessive small screen time. A new study set to appear in The Journal of Pediatrics raised concerns about smartphone and tablet exposure encouraging habits that lead to obesity. The idea is not new. Television used to be the bête noir among many known aggravating factors of obesity. Until the mentioned study, mobile devices have been exempt from the scrutiny of correlation.

Other issues and questions are currently being resolved by further research, and it is common wonder nowadays whether there is a middle ground in introducing small screens to children and toddlers. Parents can now look forward to questions such as whether or not certain apps hinder cognitive development, or if small screen time disturbs sleep patterns.

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The positives are also given attention. Current research is also open to exploring apps and small screen functions fostering skills development. For now, it is safe to say that these gadgets do not pose inherent harms unless parents use these as an ersatz for human connection.

Dr. Jonathan Lauter is an accomplished psychiatrist based in New York. A fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, he currently serves as a clinician at the Refuah Health Center in Spring Valley, New York, and also runs a private practice in Manhattan. For more insights on child and adolescent psychology, visit this blog.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Mothering a tween: Worse than post-partum depression?

Most moms think weathering childbirth and caring for a toddler will prepare them for the rest of their parenting days. While many, especially those who have struggled with post-partum depression, will find relief in having disposed of the challenges of such, new studies remind them of another parenting phase to face: rearing a tween, or a pre-teen.

The “mean tweens,” or the ages between 8 and 12, have come to be as dreaded as the terrible twos. Girls are typically more aware of this oncoming developmental stage two years earlier than boys are. Nevertheless, both sexes undergo physical changes, particularly in their secondary sex characteristics. They might feel awkward about their appearance. Hormones will drive their swinging moods. And what passes for their social life---negotiating the school hallways along with other insecure kids, knocking heads with bullies, earth-shattering crushes, identity crises---could make or break their attitudes about these years.

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Those could be too much to handle for the kids, but the parents (especially mothers, studies show) are equally steeped. Mothers report increasing frequencies of anxiety and panic attacks, driven by fears of not understanding their tweens and in many cases, not knowing what they’re up to. While infant care has less complicated guesswork but fussy methods, reaching out to tweens could sometimes feel like a shot in the dark, an emotional uncertainty that aggravates parental stress. The distancing of a secretive tween could strain relations with his or her parents, and even trigger depression among the latter.

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Psychologists prescribe parental behaviors that will be well-received on the part of tweens. Nagging and constant reprimanding might foster resentment. Parents are encouraged to be models of behaviors they want to see in their children and be open to hearing out and supporting their tweens’ healthy interests. The tween stage is a ripe time to fish out new skills, and parents could engage their children in sports or other outlets that distract from the often cruel induction to the teenage years.

Jonathan B. Lauter, M.D., is an accomplished psychiatrist, certified in both general and child and adolescent psychiatry, and an elected fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He is an alumnus of the University of California, San Francisco’s Langley Porter Institute. For more insights on child and adolescent psychology, visit this blog.

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Importance of Teaching Children Emotional Awareness

Children in their twos, threes, and fours seem to be uncontrollable. Many people think it’s normal for them to throw tantrums, even if it meant an entire day of grumpiness. Meltdowns and tantrums are painful reminders that these children are not yet aware of how they can regulate their emotions. While many parents, teachers, and caregivers believe that children will eventually outgrow these behaviors, they can actually resort to teaching kids about emotional awareness. Below are ways how they can help a child learn to determine and control their feelings.

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Give emotions a name
When children cry, there must be a why. Instead of asking them only the “why ” teach them to identify the feeling by giving the emotion a name. For example, teachers can say, “You cried because you were sad daddy left. It’s okay to be sad.” Or, “Did you cry because you were mad John got your toy?” Putting a label or a name on feelings will help them learn about them better.

Make feelings or emotions normal
The phrase “boys (or big girls) don’t cry,” is detrimental to a child’s emotional awareness. Crying, laughing, and other manifestations of feelings should be deemed as normal. Of course, when the crying or the laughing is excessive or inappropriate, adults can call it out. But when young children are taught to bottle up their emotions, they might be prone to having depression or anxiety as they grow older as they’ve been taught that certain emotions are not acceptable.

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Develop empathy by teaching them to recognize another person’s feelings
Children who learn how to empathize respond to others’ feelings appropriately. Empathy is an important skill when building lasting, life-long relationships. When children discuss their feelings, it is best that caregivers liken the situation with them as “adults.” As children realize that adults and their peers have feelings, too, they learn to develop empathy.

Jonathan B. Lauter, M.D., is an accomplished New York-based child and adolescent psychiatrist. Read similar articles about child development by visiting this blog.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Keeping Them Calm: Managing Panic Disorders In Children

A panic disorder is a common type of anxiety disorder that a child or adolescent may develop. It is a condition that emerges spontaneously, and with lack of insight or awareness of anxiety disorders, children may attribute the panic to certain situations or environments.

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A panic attack is manifested by a sudden surge of intense fear, palpitation, dizziness, choking sensations or difficulty in breathing, sweating, trembling, and gastrointestinal distress, and children may be frantically screaming and crying. Behavioral changes include avoidance of going to places or engaging in activities that they feel would cause panic.

Panic disorders are treatable, usually through drug and behavioral therapy. One way parents can manage panic attacks at home is to teach and help the child understand the condition so that they know how to identify a panic attack episode. Parents can explain that anxiety is normal to help people prepare for danger, but can be a problem when the body thinks it is in danger when it is not.

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Parents can also help the child learn how to relax by teaching how to take slow, deep, regular breaths through the nose when they are starting to feel anxious.

Jonathan Lauter, M.D. is a certified general and child and adolescent psychiatrist based in New York. For more updates on child and adolescent mental health, subscribe to this blog.